*unpacked suitcase from failed attempt to cross the border to Egypt, to visit family.
The closed borders affect Palestinians in so many ways. The most obvious and deadly affects are the barring entry of aid into Gaza, though it is apparently stockpiled on the Israeli and Egyptian sides, foods rotting and expiring, needed blankets and clothing sitting where not needed.
The closed borders also mean medical patients aren’t getting out, just as its been for much of the last 3 years, since Hamas was elected and the world sealed up Gaza under the inadequate descriptions “blockade” and merely a “siege”.
S. isn’t ill and doesn’t actually need anything material. He lives comfortably, enough food, enough coffee, enough cigarettes and nargila to share with friends, including us.
But his family is in the West Bank and he hasn’t seen them for about 4 years, since they were last briefly able to visit Gaza. He hasn’t seen his real home, in Bethlehem, since he was exiled to Gaza 7 years ago.
His desperate hope recently was to meet his wife and children in Egypt. Just for a week, but better than nothing.
When the Rafah border with Egypt opened for a few days last week, allowing out and in but a fraction of a fraction of the many who need out/in,S. was down there, trying to cross. He actually had a reason: an ill friend that needs accompaniment to an Egyptian hospital where he should have heart surgery…. Because, unlike our free nations where we can travel across the border for cheaper shopping if that’s the initiative, S. cannot travel out for the reason of seeing his wife and kids.
S. smiled his sad-eyed smile and welcomed, welcomed, welcomed us into his home (ahlan, ahlan, ahlan!) the expression goes. And he was sincere in his welcoming, but his disappointment was evident: “I didn’t get to cross,” he said. “Another time, inshallah.”
But it always rings loudly and, plainly wrong to me, to us: why another time? why not any time? why not like any person in any country, the right to cross borders? and how, how, how, does he survive each day away from the children and wife he adores?
*sunset from S’ window
*nargila coals and tea, an unending supply for guests.
*last of the season’s (unexported) strawberries.